Lost in Space

by Marisa Finn '11

Marissa Finn

Ever since freshman year of high school, I had known exactly what I wanted to do. Peering into the dark summer skies of Connecticut as a child, I wanted to explore the endless wonder of the universe, from the physics of the infinitesimal atoms that form our reality to the massive systems of stars and dust that make up galaxies. I was going to major in physics and go on to astronomy in graduate school. Armed with this mission, I stepped confidently into my first physics class at Scripps. But even as I planned out my four college years, I couldn’t confine myself to the lab.

The Scripps Core sequence in interdisciplinary humanities captured me the first day. I was fascinated by the connections we drew among the seemingly separate disciplines incorporated in the class. Suddenly, a whole new world opened. The sciences were intertwined with philosophy; the social sciences were related to math. I saw patterns everywhere. When I returned to my room at the end of the first day of class, I sat down and wrote. I poured my experiences onto the page, detailing the interconnections I saw emerging in the world. But ever true to my goal, I returned to my science.

In between physics, I used my general education requirements to look at the world in new ways. I submerged myself in the Core II class about fairytales. Patterns crawled out of the stories at me and fed my imagination, inspiring me to write fairytales of my own. In Core III, I contemplated myriad philosophies on the meaning of life. In Writing 50, I explored globalization and its effects on the world. English classes exposed me to philosophy, psychology, and great literature. I did my best to stuff my curriculum with economics, gender studies, environmental studies, and dance.

All the while, I continued to write.

So it went for three years. The more I pursued physics, the more energy I poured into astronomy, the less inspired I became. Then I launched into an ambitious astrophysics project at the end of my junior year. That was the first summer I stopped writing anything other than scientific papers. After a full year of astronomy work, I realized research was not my passion. And I had no back-up plan.

I was lost. Had physics been a mistake? I had always been inspired by the night sky, and I had dreamed of what I might find out there. Every evening, as I turned to the strangely colored sky with its stars and galaxies, I was inspired to lay out their stories not in numbers, but in sentences.

My life had always seemed to be a great mix of science and the arts, but I was so strongly encouraged to pursue my interest in the sciences than I treated my passion for writing as a hobby. Why had I ignored that driving passion? What was I going to do now?

I may not have all the answers. But I am now confident that physics was not a mistake. Physics and astronomy provided a critical perspective on my view of the world, one which I will utilize for the rest of my life. I am also sure that physics will not be the only thing I do. My interdisciplinary education has given me an understanding of the interconnectedness of the sciences, arts, and humanities. These are the patterns that inspire me, and will provide me with new dreams and a new direction.


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